Last Wednesday, Google’s Director of Product Policy, David Graff, announced that from 13th July, Google would stop showing ads for loans due within 60 days.
In the US, Google will also stop showing ads for loans with an interest rate of 36% or higher; this could be a test to see how restrictive this is in one market, before deciding to roll it out to other markets, too, so it’s worth lenders considering whether this might impact them in the future even if it isn’t immediately.
Graff explained in his blog post; “This change is designed to protect our users from deceptive or harmful financial products…”
With many payday lenders relying on online searches to generate customers, these companies may need to change their online strategies to still reach their target audience.
Some in the industry have speculated that a shift in focus away from paid search towards organic search techniques may be favourable for payday lenders, especially with the endlessly-rumoured upcoming Penguin algorithm update which should rid the organic results of any illegitimate lenders who have used manipulative link building techniques.
But the ad ban also throws up questions around whether Google’s morality should play a part in what results it decides to show. This isn’t the first time Google has restricted bidding based on its own morality; they won’t display certain types of ad extensions for companies selling sex toys or other less-family-friendly products, as a further example.
Google has explained that the decision to ban payday loan ads is to protect their users, and that “Ads for financial services are a particular area of vigilance given how core they are to people’s livelihood and well-being.”
What we could be seeing here is the acknowledgement that those users choosing to use a payday lender potentially represents an absence of choice for some people, regardless of the chance to access a full range of available options online.
Google currently censors organic results too through the ‘safe search’ filter, it’ll be interesting to see if it puts payday loan lenders behind a similar filter so that only those users really desperate could find them, and weren’t manipulated into thinking the loans were a viable solution.
It wouldn’t be surprising if we saw a shift in the organic results of this specific vertical in the coming weeks and months, as it’s likely these will be under ongoing Google scrutiny, too.